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Rembrandt will ride again as reprinting is planned from his original plates

A Californian company prepares to sell etchings reprinted from the seventeenth-century plates

A Californian company is to sell Rembrandt etchings which have been newly-printed from the original seventeenth-century plates. Beverly Hills-based Intaglio Etchings Ltd is marketing eight different “Millennium Impression” prints, at prices ranging from $675 to $1,890. To protect the fragile plates for printing, they have been faced with steel.

The plates were among a group of seventy-eight which were together in the eighteenth century and were eventually acquired in 1938 by the American collector Robert Lee Humber. He died in 1970 and thirteen years later his plates were sold through two galleries, London-based Artemis and Santa Barbara-based R.M. Light, at prices from $15,000 to $150,000 each. Many were purchased by museums, but a private US collector bought eight, giving him the largest group (“Self-portrait at a window”, “The artist’s mother with her hand on chest”, “Christ and the woman of Samaria”, “The Raising of Lazarus”, “Bust of a man wearing a high cap”, “The golf player”, “The card player” and “Landscape with a cow”).

Intaglio Etchings art director John McLaurin is unwilling to reveal the identity of the owner of the plates. “He is a Los Angeles physician who has the largest collection of etchings of Rembrandt’s Jewish subjects. The deal was brokered by a renowned Rembrandt dealer in New York and another here in Beverly Hills,” Mr McLaurin explained. Since 1993 the plates have been held in a bank vault, until the recent decision to print from them. The printing is being done by Marjorie Van Dyck, an American specialist in pulling impressions from old plates.

The eight Rembrandt plates have been steel-faced, which involves using an electrolytic process to coat the copper with a very thin layer of steel. Mr McLaurin claims that the planned print-run of one thousand copies will not cause any damage. He also insists that the steel surface can be easily removed. Others are worried, and Martin Royalton-Kisch, a Rembrandt expert at the British Museum, points out that the plates are already exceedingly worn.

Intaglio Etchings stresses that the prints are clearly being marketed as a 1999 edition. They are also on modern Arches paper, which would make it very difficult ever to pass them off as early impressions.

Prices of the “Millennium impressions” have been set at a similar level to prints pulled after Rembrandt’s lifetime, when the plates were already worn. “The golf player”, for example, is being sold by Intaglio Etchings for $1,250. Reasonable copies of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century impressions might sell for about $1,000, although a very good impression pulled during Rembrandt’s own lifetime could go for $15,000 and one on slightly damaged paper for around $5,000.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Rembrandt rides again'